Washington's Best - Bracketography.com

Washington's Best


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by Andy Force
Senior Writer, Bracketography.com
February 21, 2004

 


Look no further than the Evergreen State recruiting wars to establish Washington's most revered program. The current Gonzaga Bulldogs' roster features two surefire NBA players (Blake Stepp and Ronny Turiaf), perhaps as many as four. The recent tournament success of the Bulldogs has helped their recruiting pitch drastically. A case in point is Erroll Knight. Erroll Knight attended Chief Sealth High School in Seattle. Knight is not the typical Zag, because he was nationally recruited.

Knight was on the short list for Syracuse, Kansas, and Washington. Out of high school he signed with the Huskies of Washington, becoming "Bob Bender's first quality local recruit." After one year, Knight left UW. Gonzaga pounced on him. For a player to choose the Kennel of Spokane over the major-major Pac-10 schools within the state is a huge step forward. For the past decade Gonzaga has produced with no-names that fit the system and gutted out splendid performances. The talent became apparent but not to experienced recruiters. Erroll Knight may have changed all that. He made a conscience decision to pick Mark Few's program. A different situation but the same trail led Dan Dickau from UW to Gonzaga. That turned out well incidentally.

According to Insiders.com, Gonzaga has reeled in the #59 prep product (Class of '04). He is another big man with perhaps more talent than his predecessors. Josh Heytvelt of Clarkston High (Clarkston, WA) stands 6'10", 210 now. Imagine his build after a year of college conditioning. He will surpass the size of former Zags' widebodies Zach Gourde, Richard Fox, and Josh Brown.

Shift the focus to the 2003-2004 Gonzaga team. February 18th Gonzaga had two reasons to rejoice. They retired the jersey of their most famous alumnus, John Stockton. In addition, they set the school record of consecutive wins to 15. The season has gone outstandingly with a staggering 22-2 mark to accompany a 12-0 West Coast Conference record. Stepp is 4th in the country with 7.1 assists per contest. Cory Violette is 10th in the nation managing 187 total rebounds. Everything is going right. The conference title is wrapped up. It is quite possible the Bulldogs will drop one in the conference tournament, but that will not deter them from putting a great effort up in the NCAA draw.

As most know, this year's cast includes Stepp (preseason All-American candidate), Ronny Turiaf (jacked junior), and Violette (much tougher than his name). Even rabid college hoops fans have yet to meet Adam Morrison. A poignant comparison made of him by the coaching staff is to Larry Legend. Obviously Larry Bird is light years ahead of this kid now, but Morrison's game does have an eerie throwback feel to it. A constant threat in the mid-range, the 6'8" swingman moves methodically around the floor. His quickness won't impress you though his efficient movement will.

Like a grizzled veteran, Morrison wastes nothing in his pursuit of the ball or his fluid shot attempt. He recognizes the purpose of a point guard, but Adam Morrison does possess handles if need be. A freshman on a Top 10 team, Morrison posts 11.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 1.5 apg. Like the entire Zag squad he shoots well at 51% from the floor. Morrison makes this a varied attack by welding the post-players and Stepp together. There is not a spot on the floor from which he can not put up a good-looking shot.

Gonzaga long ago shrugged off the Cinderella story tag. They are a tough team with good players. The team is a rough draw come tourney time, but please guys keep your complaints about seeding to yourself. There is no better way to show up the committee than to beat higher ranked teams along the way.

Get it done with what you have. Stepp will not be National Player of the Year but few are more valuable to their teams. Turiaf has a dazzling physique to allow for his domineering post-play. The bankable Violette gets it done every night on the glass. With so many parts it seems likely Few can overcome a letdown from one or two players. If all of the cogs work together, this is an impressive machine.